Tick…tick…BOOM! Is an autobiographical musical about a young struggling composer living in a slum apartment in NYC, waiting tables in a diner trying to write a new kind of musical for the Broadway stage in 1990. The composer, who is about to turn 30, is suffering a crisis-should he continue pursuing his dream of writing a new style of Broadway musical that reflected the sounds themes of his life or “give up” find a real career.
This story of perseverance in the face of obstacles the tenacious clinging to ones dreams is one that has certainly been fodder for literature, music theatre for generations. But, of course, this story is real.
Tick tick, Boom, now on stage at Innovation Theatre Works, was written by Jonathan Larson the composer of the hit musical RENT. He wrote his story originally as a musical monologue for himself played in bars clubs around the city as a way of expressing his frustration as an outlet for his creative energy during the many years that he struggled unnoticed by the the Broadway theatre.
ITW Artistic Directors Chris Rennolds Brad Hills can relate. In 2008 they launched the company with the goal of creating a first class professional regional theatre in Central Oregon. Both in their fifties, they were fueled by the same passion as Larson—to spend their lives making theatre that was meaningful to them to audiences in the 21st century. And it was much harder than it looked. In September 2008, their first production, Driving Miss Daisy, opened at the Tower Theatre on the same day the stock market crashed. And the difficulty in raising money for a non-profit performing arts organization increased exponentially. So, there they were—neither one getting any younger—with that same decision to face: should they hold on tight try to navigate the storm live their passion or be reasonable work toward a secure life retirement in something that wasn’t fulfilling on any deep level. So far, they have hung on.
“I think everyone experiences a dilemma of this type at some point in their lives, sometimes more than one. It seems to be the point at which you begin to realize that not every option in the universe is open to you,” said Rennolds, “And you have to decide which way you will live your life. We are just going through it a little later than Jonathan Larson did, it actually makes is scarier. We have less time to change course if it doesn’t work out. But the question is always the same—what life do you want to live?”
The show is a blast,” said Hills. “The music is eclectic-a little pop, a little rock, a little blues. We have a fantastic cast—Matt Lutz from New York Olivia Cherryholmes Joshua McKinney from Los Angeles who can sing the stuffin’ out of this music. And a b of great local musicians led by LA Musical Director Brent Crayon.
“As hard as it is to imagine, 1990 is now almost ancient history. Remember when there was no internet, no cell phones, no digital cameras, no You Tube, no Facebook. There were pay phones on the street you had to put coins into them. Voice mails were actually answering machines you could fly without taking off your shoes being patted down. But the human goal was still the same—trying to live your passion when all the sign posts are telling you to let it go grow up.”
The show ends on an optimistic note with Larson being noticed by his mentor, Stephan Sondheim, he begins the seven year task of bringing RENT to Broadway.
RENT won a Pulitzer Prize, multiple Tony Awards, Drama Critics’ Circle Obie awards. It opened on Broadway in 1996 played until 2008, making it the ninth longest running show in Broadway history. It has since played all over the world became a feature film in 2006. Ironically, Larson would not live to see the recognition success his perseverance had wrought. He died at 36 of an aortic aneurism the night before RENT began previews off Broadway.
“We are so lucky to have this snapshot of Jonathan’s life,” said Rennolds. “It is his story told in his words music at a time he still believed everything was possible. And it reminds us all to live our dreams—no matter how old we are!”
Tick Tick Boom runs June 8-25 at the Bend Performing Arts Cente. 541-504-6721 or www.innovationtw.org.